Off to the Press: La Finca

Hello my Bloggies!

No, I haven’t run off with the milkman. I’m still around, lurking,¬† throwing yummy looking food on the screen to keep you glued to your seats… Weird, all of a sudden¬†my voice (in my head, yes!) sounded low and creepy as I typed that sentence. Uff!

Anyway. I have something for you to read, but you’ll have to follow me over to Eating Our Words. Remember? That’s where I’m leading my secret agent double life. Click here. Do it quickly, this message will self-destruct in 5 4 3

See ya after the jump!
Anamaris

Fideos a la Shun, sorta

My dear friend Shun, as I affectionately call her, shared this dish with me many moons ago, and I was hooked after my first try. Fideos (noodles) are a simple symphony of spicy, smoky and fresh flavors. It is sometimes called sopa de fideos, which translates to dry noodle soup.

It makes for a great side dish, but I often eat it as a main course. Traditionally, it is served with crema fresca (creme fraiche), queso fresco and avocado. A great option for a meat-free menu, and delicious to boot. Another plus, it is prepared in a jiffy or rápidito! I made this batch at the last minute to take to a party and was unable to find tomatoes that were ripe enough, so I opted for good canned ones. Likewise, I had no luck in the avocado front, so no avocados for me! You decide how much heat you want and adjust the number of serranos accordingly, you may also remove the seeds, this will further reduce the heat level.

Fideos a la Shun
12 oz fideo pasta or angel hair
4 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion
2 garlic cloves, whole
1 or 2 serrano peppers, to taste
5 fresh Roma tomatoes, ripened OR
1 can (15 oz.) stewed tomatoes
2 tbsp chicken flavor bouillon (like Knorr or Maggi)
Water
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp cumin powder
Salt and pepper to taste
For plating:
Queso fresco, crumbled
Crema fresca
Avocado slices or small cubes

I would suggested getting the sauce ready first. Shun’s¬†recipe calls for the onion, garlic, serranos and fresh tomatoes to be roasted first. You can skip this step, but it does add an intensity and complexity to the dish, so if you have the time–about 10-15 extra minutes–you should do it.

I use my comal or grill pan for this, getting it nice and hot, then sear the sliced onion, whole serranos, garlic and tomatoes (fresh). Once  seared, dump the whole thing into your blender or food processor, adding the chicken bouillon, cumin, oregano, salt & pepper and enough water to get things moving. Set aside.

Heat a large saute pan over high heat add the oil and break the pasta into it, the purpose of this step is to toast the pasta, but don’t walk away, it burns rather quickly and that will ruin the flavor of the dish. The noodles will change color¬†and turn golden brown.

Carefully, VERY carefully add the pureed sauce and watch yourself! It becomes the evil spitty monster at this point, add enough water to ensure the noodles are submerged in liquid. Lower the heat so it simmers gently, check the seasoning and adjust as necessary.

The noodles should be al dente, when done. It will take about 20 minutes for the pasta to cook and you may need to add more water as it cooks down. To plate: spoon some noodles onto a plate, top with crema, avocado and the crumbled cheese. Pull up a chair and enjoy!

To see more of the step-by-step process, click here.

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris
PS: Thanks, Shuni!

Cinco de Mayo? Pork in Green Sauce

The Hubbz hates the use of the word ‘juxtapose’, he says it has become all trendy and overused. I laugh every time I hear the word and look at the disgust on his face as he rolls his little blue eyes. That said, this dish is a perfect juxtaposition of flavors. Creamy, tart, spicy, hot, and a cooling sweetness. Perfect! Just pair it with a Margarita and you have the makings of an excellent 5 de mayo celebration.

Puerco en Salsa Verde (pork in green sauce) is a very popular Mexican dish that marries chiles and tomatillos with pork meat, usually the shoulder. You’ll find a few variations, with or without corn and at various degrees of heat = picante. One element that is always present, is that zingy tang of the tomatillos.

To contrast, or juxtapose, the tang, I added a radish and red pepper raita–of sorts. Raita¬†is an Indian or Pakistani sauce or condiment, usually prepared with yogurt, cucumbers and various herbs. My version, with a Latin flavor, used crema¬†fresca instead of the yogurt and some colorful Easter radishes and red peppers. This made for a deliciously fresh, cool and ever so slightly sweet topping for the tomatillo and chile sauce. It is juxtaposition perfection and tastes GOOD!

Pork in Green Sauce with Radish and Crema Fresca Raita

For the pork:
1 lb pork shoulder or butt, cubed
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, sliced
3 garlic cloves, whole
6-8 tomatillos
1-2 serrano peppers (to taste)
1 tbsp cumin, ground
1 tbsp oregano
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 cp onion, chopped
2 cps fresh corn, shucked
1/2 cp cilantro, chopped

I like roasting tomatillos, this intensifies their flavors and brings out more rounded aspects of the fruit. Spread them on a baking sheet with the onion slices, serranos and garlic cloves, and broil them for 15 to 20 minutes, turning them as they brown.

Once browned, dump the whole thing (there will be plenty of juices from the tomatillos) into a blender vessel and puree with the cumin, oregano, salt & pepper. Set aside.

In the meantime, season the pork with salt & pepper; in a medium-sized pan, heat the oil and then brown the pork pieces. Remove the excess fat from the pan, leaving enough to saute the extra cup of onions. Once the onions become translucent, add the pork, followed by the pureed tomatillo & pepper sauce.

If necessary, add enough water to ensure there’s enough liquid to cover the pork. Once it comes to a boil, bring the temperature to low, just so it is slowly simmering. Put a lid over it and allow it to simmer for about an hour or until the pork is tender.

Once the pork is fork tender, add the corn and cilantro, check the seasoning and adjust as necessary. Allow it to cook for another 5 minutes or so, just long enough for the corn to soften. To serve, top with some radish raita and enjoy!

For the Radish and Red Pepper Raita

1 cp radishes, julienned
1/4 cp red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cp crema fresca (creme fraiche)
Salt & pepper to taste
2 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped

Combine all the ingredients and keep cool until ready to serve.

Where’s my Margarita?!!

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

Tamales Mexicanos… I did it my way

Even though Mexican food is readily available in Houston, that doesn’t mean you get good tamales. For years I enjoyed the Rolls Royce of tamales, but most restaurants here serve tamales that are closer to a Yugo. My ex-mother-in-law made the best tamales I’ve eaten to date. She made them every year and would give each of her sons a few dozens to enjoy. I cherished those days, they only came around once or twice a year, so I had a lot of time to think and dream about them. Alicia was a generous woman, but she kept her method and recipe for tamales very close to the vest.¬† Fast forward some 15 years, you’ll find me trying my hand at recreating the coveted tamales.

Off to the interworld¬†I went looking for recipes and tips. I found lots and lots of them, all calling for chili powder as seasoning. For some reason, I can’t picture my mother in law dumping chili powder to season¬†her pork or chicken. So, I’m going to make this up as I go, combine some of the ingredients I saw her utilize in other dishes and see what happens. It all begins with the chilies. I used 3 different dried chiles:

  • Chile Ancho¬†is pretty mild by comparison to other dried peppers, it has a smoky fruity flavor. This isn’t surprising when you realize that Anchos are dried red poblano¬†peppers.
  • Chile Guajillo¬†also a mildly flavored chile, that seems to bring out the best in its companions.¬†Fruity, but with sweeter undertones than other¬†peppers. Interestingly, guajillos are also used¬†to make Harissa paste, a¬†condiment popular in North African dishes.
  • Chile Pasilla are very dark and wrinkled¬†like a raisin, they’re also pretty mild heat & fruity.

I used all three chilies a few different ways. First, to braise the pork and chicken. Yes. I made 2 different types of tamales, I had to. Both meats were cooked separately and slowly with onions, garlic, cumin, cilantro and 1 or 2 of each chili. I made sure to add plenty of water for braising, because that very broth flavors the masa later. Once the meat is fork tender, I allowed it cool before shredding.

I also made additional¬†chili sauce. One thing I remember about Alicia’s tamales, is that the dough was always very flavorful and colorful. For the chili sauce, I cooked the same aromatics: cilantro, chilies, onions, garlic, cumin and added tomatoes. Once everything had softened, I pureed and seasoned the sauce.

Now let’s talk about the masa. I opted to use premixed¬†masa instead of starting off with the dry corn stuff. But first I made lard. Yep, there’s a LOT of lard in tamales. The lard helps flavor the masa and makes it lighter, fluffier. So, I got some pork fat trimmings and rendered that fat down.

Before combining the lard and masa, I beat the lard until it was fluffy and added salt, pepper and pinch of cumin. I then worked the masa in and worked on its consistency by adding chile sauce and broth until it was about  the consistency of softened ice cream.

The tamales are cooked in corn husks, these are sold in packs and need to be rehydrated before use. Once they are pliable again, you can begin the exciting task of stuffing or making the tamales. Its not a difficult process, but it is a tedious one, which is probably why it is customary to have a few friends or family members pitch in at this point.

Once your tamales are stuffed, you can stack’em into a steamer pan. I took a vegetable steamer and placed it at the bottom of the pan, built a few layers with empty corn husks, this prevents the water from seeping through and ruining the tamales at the bottom and it also add to the flavor of finished tamales.

After about 40 minutes, you’ll end up with perfectly cooked, delicious tamales. Look at that gorgeous baby.

I also made some salsa and we sprinkled some queso fresco on top. I’m not offering a recipe here, I really kept adding and tasting things until they were right. I will say these weren’t quite Rolls Royce tamales, but I think I made it to Benz status.

 

There are lots more pictures, you can see them here.

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

Frozen fingers

It’s cold in Houston. Like freezing cold. As much as I love the cold, it makes very, what’s the word…? Lazy. Yep. I’ve got a ton of already prepared, shot and eaten dishes to tell you about, but with all the real work I’ve been doing, I’ve not been able to sit before the puter to type ’em up.

So, we’re going to the mattresses. I mean, the archives. This is what I do when I’ve not had a chance to come up with a new post and when I think there’s something yummy you may have missed in my early days.

This one is really good, it is a creamy and spicy chicken dish with Mexican flair. This is Pollo con Crema Poblana (Chicken with Poblano Cream Sauce). For the recipe, click the link.

Lazily yours,
Anamaris

The benefits of knowing people in Mexican places

Yesterday I introduced you to Lesley of Mija Chronicles¬†fame. She’s an expat living in Mexico City and she loves food, particularly that of the Mexican persuasion. She posted this recipe for Pan de Elote¬†just a few weeks ago, I made it the day I read it. I’m sure¬† that gives you a good indication¬†of how fantastic it is. I’m SO happy I made this. My waistline isn’t happy, well, I don’t think my waistline cares one way or the other. The mirror…, that’s a different story.

Moving on. I will redirect you to¬†her post for the actual recipe, no need to re-invent the wheel. Believe me,¬†you¬†WANT to see¬†her post. You may actually want to EAT her post, but I don’t think computer monitors will taste¬†quite the same.¬†¬†A few notes about the recipe and the steps to bring it together.

Her recipe was made with white corn, which¬†is commonly available in Mexico, but I wasn’t able to find it here in Houston. The best I was able to get was 2-color fresh corn, but still, it was mostly yellow.

I was 1 ear of corn shy of 4 cups of husked corn kernels. Upon closer inspection, I only had 3 cps. Gulp. Unwilling to take such a massive risk, and because The Hubbz will always make an emergency run for me, I asked him to get me more cobs. Crisis averted.

Because I suck at following recipes, I missed the part where it said to grind HALF of the corn…, you should do that.

I did use the unsalted butter, but added a pinch of salt for that ying yang effect. I would also suggest using a bit less of the sugar since the US corn tends to be so sweet.

For this recipe you will beat the egg whites to punto¬†de turr√≥n or to soft peaks for the non-Spanish speakers. Check it out, I’m holding that bowl over my head.

And you want to fold these beautiful whites into the rest of the batter without losing all that cloudy fluff. So, take just a bit of the whites and mix them into the batter, then fold in the rest of the whites. This will make folding the two together easier and more uniform.

And when it baked for 55 minutes or so, it came out looking like this. Can you hear the choir? Aaaaaaaaaaaaah…

The Hubbz¬†and I ate this in 2 days. I’m not proud of it, but this is about full disclosure. This isn’t cornbread as we know it here in the US, it’s not even the cakier¬†version of it. This is a cross between a souffle and an angel food cake. Lesley describes it as a buttery corn cake, and it is all of those things. We especially enjoyed this cake with a bit of queso¬†fresco sprinkled over the top. Ying Yang, baby.

Another keeper!

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

Eat your breakfast

They do say it is the most important meal of the day, and I guess they are right. I am so tempted to use the infamous air quotes when I refer to they, but how would you see that? I’m also trying to trick you into thinking I’m one of the cool kids, I don’t think the cool kids do air quotes…, do they?

Breakfast. I don’t eat it as often as I should. I probably only have breakfast on the weekends, more like brunch. On weekday mornings, I have coffee and by the time that’s settled in, its time for lunch, so no breakfast. But on weekends, The Hubbz and I will partake on a morning-ish meal. There’s never a real plan, we just stumble on to the fridge and pull stuff out. Not too long ago, I came up with these.

I don’t really know what they are. A cross between a quesadilla and a tostada, some cheese and sausage and a nicely bright sunny-side-up egg to top it all off. This was perfection. We had the crunch of the corn tortilla against the creamy melted cheese and the yolk. Very easy, very quick, very good. No recipe here, just pull stuff together and make happy.

Sausage & Egg Tostadas
Corn tortillas
Sausage, thinly sliced
Queso Oaxaca or other melting cheese, grated
Eggs
Oil
Salt & black pepper

Layer tortillas with cheese and sausage. Top with another tortilla and toast it in a skillet with some oil. Crisp both sides.

Fry the eggs to your preferred doneness, you could also poach them.

Drain the tostadas, top with the egg and more of the sliced sausage.

Eat. Come. Mangia. And if you’d like more reasons to lick that screen, click here.

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris